Some people refer to Shada as “rodeo royalty.” To her friends and family, she’s upbeat and energetic, and she always makes the best of every situation.
When I called Shada for our interview, she was at the baseball field, waiting for her kids to finish practice. In the middle of our call, a fellow baseball mom came over to chat for a minute.
“Sorry about that,” she said after the minor interruption. “I’m talking to you on my car Bluetooth and she didn’t realize I was doing an interview.”
It’s a situation that sums up Shada’s life well. Ball practice, junior rodeos, and birthday parties blend seamlessly with barrel racing at the highest levels of the sport and spending ten days in Las Vegas each December. She’s an inspiring example of a salt-of-the-earth cowgirl that has learned to bloom where she’s planted.
Growing Up Well-Rounded
Two hundred and twenty-five miles northwest of Fort Worth, Texas lays the small town of Childress. Home to roughly 6000 hardy folks who don’t mind the West Texas wind, Childress is rich with rodeo and ranching history. Shada’s family has ranched in the area for three generations, and it was on the family ranch that she fell in love with horses. Shada had what she calls a “well-rounded” childhood filled with time on the ranch, playing basketball and cheerleading.
“I got to experience a little bit of everything, not just rodeo. I think that helps make someone more well-rounded, rather than just doing one thing,” says Shada.
Shada began competing in high school rodeo as a sophomore. Surrounded by top-notch ropers, she thoroughly enjoyed breakaway roping, especially aboard the talented horses she got to ride. However, barrel racing was her favorite from the beginning because it was the one event she had to learn on her own.
“Anytime I wanted to practice barrels, [Shada’s brothers Clif and Tuf Cooper] gave me a hard time about it, but that was as they were rolling the barrels out for me. They spoiled me and worked the ground so I could practice, but they sure let me know about it,” laughs Shada.
After a successful high school rodeo career, Shada spent two years rodeoing for Vernon College. She finished out her rodeo career and completed her marketing degree at Texas Tech University. Shada’s life was full and busy, especially when she graduated from college, got engaged and turned twenty-one in the same week. Shada and the then-up-an-coming pro roper Trevor Brazile were married in 2001 and made their home in Decatur, Texas, where they continue to live today. Their son, Treston (11), joined them in 2007, and daughter Style (8) arrived in 2010.
This sets the scene for the year of 2012 when Shada stumbled into a God-planned meeting with Dial It Fast, the bay gelding who would be her legs, wings, and partner during the 2013 rodeo season.
An Undercover Dream
“I think I had always wanted to go to the NFR, but I probably just didn’t let anybody know,” says Shada with a laugh.
It began when Shada’s high school and college rodeo horse, Quaker, was sold to professional barrel racer Molly Powell. Shada watched Molly and Quaker compete at the National Finals Rodeo the very next year.
“That lit a fire in me. Quaker was the horse who taught me everything. How to win and keep a good horse working. After I sold him, I told myself, ‘One day I’m going to find that special NFR horse again,’” recalls Shada.
She honored this promise to herself, becoming even more of a student of the sport and beginning the search for that next special horse. As she traveled to rodeos with Trevor, Shada took advantage of the opportunity to observe the women who were winning at the professional level.
“I went to barrel racing slacks and watched from the back as I sat on one of Trevor’s rope horses,” says Shada. “I saw how they cared for [their horses] on the road, warmed them up, and worked them. I picked up everything I could.”
In the meantime, Shada was trying and buying many different kinds of horses. Some were finished, while others had never seen a barrel. She even began turning a few of Trevor’s rope horses into her own barrel prospects. One special rope horse-turned-barrel horse named Sly was sold to world champion Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and set an arena record at Spokane, Washington.
“Each time I got a new horse, I always thought, ‘This is the one!” laughs Shada.
Then, in 2012, tragedy struck. Within one week, she lost her most promising prospect to salmonella, and another talented mount broke its leg while playing in the pasture. She was devastated.
“It took it out of me. I got down on my knees and said, ‘Lord you’re going to have to pick me back up. I know you have a plan. I’m not going to get mad or bitter. I’m heartbroken right now, but I trust you in this,’” says Shada.
It turns out there was a plan because two weeks later, Shada received a call from Brittany asking if Shada would like to try a bay gelding she had for sale. Trevor had spotted the horse at the Texas Circuit Finals a few weeks earlier and asked Brittany about him. She followed up on his interest by calling Shada. The horse’s name was Dial It Fast.
Shada initially turned down the offer to try the gelding, but finally, she agreed to give him a chance and try him out. When he burned through three barrels that cold Texas morning, the feisty bay gelding by Dashin is Easy out of Dial It In by Easy Jet won Shada’s heart. He bucked playfully on the way home from third, and she loved him immediately.
The Chase Is On
Shada and “Dial It” spent the rest of 2012 doing the important work of seasoning as a team. When January of 2013 arrived, Shada and her bay rocket ship were ready. They began their season with a bang when they won the San Antonio Stock Show. This catapulted them to the top ten in the WPRA world standings.
When the time came to load up for the summer rodeos, Shada and Dial It were sitting in a cushy seventh place. Except there’s no such thing as “cushy” when it’s June. Competition is tough and the summer is long. Cowboy Christmas and the rest of July were not kind to the rookie team.
“I won about $500 bucks in the month of July. At Cheyenne, I was 23rd in the world,” Shada recalls.
Part of the “dry spell” was caused by an unusually long “wet spell” in Canada. While at a rodeo in a Canadian ski village, Shada and her rig, which included her mom Shari, friend Bambi Robb, children Treston and Style, Dial It, and several of Trevor’s rope horses got stranded when a mudslide and major construction blocked the only two roads out of town. Shada, Shari, Bambi, and the kids could do nothing but wait for the roads to open. They spent four days trail riding in the mountains while her competitors inched farther ahead.
“It was Cowboy Christmas, and I couldn’t travel! That break got me in overdrive. I was very motivated, that’s for sure,” says Shada.
By the end of July, friends were encouraging Shada to call it a season and send Dial It home to Texas for some R&R. Yet the gritty cowgirl knew there was more in the tank. The pair competed at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho and placed second. The momentum kept rolling from that point forward. In spite of a serious colic scare, Shada and Dial It won enough at Pendleton to jump them to thirteenth in the world standings, punch their ticket to Las Vegas, and run under the lights of the Thomas and Mack in 2013. Shada made the decision to take a break from rodeoing in 2014. In 2015, she gave birth to daughter Swayzi (3). Since then, Shada has focused on being a mom, wife, and entrepreneur.
Small Moments Are The Best Moments
Shada’s multi-faceted career has included modeling roles with Western clothiers Ariat, STS Ranchwear, Wrangler, and Justin Boots. She also collaborated in the past with Wrangler to design their Western youth clothing line. More than the modeling, clothing lines, buckles, championships, and NFR qualifications, family is the most important thing in Shada’s life. She embraces the frenzied pace that rodeo brings, choosing to find the beauty in each crazy day. Up until this year, Shada homeschooled the kids so the family could stay on the road together for the whole season. They also choose to travel in an RV-style bus so there’s more room for everyone in their “house on wheels.”
When asked to share some of her favorite moments from her family’s rodeo adventures, here’s what she said:
“At the end of the day, what you have is your family,” Shada says while recalling her favorite moments from her family’s rodeo adventures. “You don’t have the announcers. You don’t have the buckles. You have each other. It’s all about taking each day and being thankful for every moment. Even when you broke out to win the rodeo. That’s what’s so special about Trevor. When he comes back to the bus, if my kids didn’t watch him compete, they don’t know if he won the rodeo by half a second or if he missed to win it. He’s the same no matter what.”
There are exceptional moments that carry special memories, too. Times when she and Trevor won their events at the same rodeo, the victory laps, and the ten runs under the bright lights of Las Vegas. Above all, Shada’s favorite moments are the little ones. Sitting outside the RV in lawn chairs, visiting with her mom, husband, brothers, uncle [Stran Smith], and cousin [Stetson Vest], laughing over the events of the day.
“You’re 1200 miles from home, but in that moment, you have your family. You have love and special memories, and those are the little moments that are so special,” Shada says.
Now that her kids are in school, Shada’s days include more time at ball practice, cooking family dinners, helping with homework, and working on business projects that don’t require as much time away from home. Her passion for riding and barrel racing remains as strong as ever as she continues to train the young prospects in her barn and help her kids get started in rodeo competition. She says she’s happy with the current season of life and enjoys each day for the fullness and adventures it brings. Life is made up of seasons. The memories she has from the years of rodeoing together are the kind that never fade.
Photos: Kirstie Marie Photography
Author Kelli Kissack is a writer, photographer, and cowgirl who calls the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota her home. She craves adventure and travels over 40,000 miles per year with her rodeo cowboy husband, Dane. Follow her escapades on Instagram or learn more at her website.
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